Fully-vaccinated US and European citizens will soon be able to travel to England from an amber list country without having to quarantine.
The UK government will formally recognise US vaccine certificates that prove a traveller has been double-jabbed, as well as accepting the EU equivalent, from Monday August 2.
Making the announcement on Wednesday, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel and today is another important step forward.
“Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade – this is progress we can all enjoy.”
While the news has been welcomed by families and friends long separated by the complex rules around international travel, the announcement has also left many people confused about the small print. Here are your questions on the latest travel rules answered.
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What are the changes and when do they come into effect?
Currently, only travellers who have received two doses of a vaccine in the UK are permitted to enter England from an amber country without self-isolating for 10 days, excluding France which is “amber plus” status, due to recent high levels of the Beta variant that originated in South Africa.
From 4am on Monday August 2, US vaccine certificates, both digital and hard copy, as well as the EU version that confirms you have been double-jabbed, will allow citizens of those countries to enter England without needing to self-isolate for 10 days.
Who will the quarantine exemption apply to?
“The changes will apply to fully vaxxed people with an FDA or EMA vaccine – they’ll still need to do the usual pre-departure test before arrival and take a PCR test on day 2 of returning to the England,” Shapps tweeted.
An FDA vaccine is one authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration, so the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines, received in the US; while an EMA vaccine is one authorised by the European Medicines Agency, so Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, received in Europe.
All visitors must still have proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel to England from abroad. You must take a test even if you’ve been fully vaccinated and/or are traveling from a country on the green list.
Are all European countries exempt from quarantine?
The changes apply to citizens from the US and all EU countries. However, it’s important to note that they will only apply to journeys made to England from amber list countries.
All arrivals from France, for example, which is currently in amber plus status, will still be required to enter quarantine for 10 days. Falling rates of the Beta variant in France do mean the amber plus list is expected to be scrapped at the next traffic light review on August 4, though.
Has the US advice on travel to the UK changed?
While the UK government is willing to accept US travellers – on the condition they follow the amber entry requirements – the US government is still advising against travel to the UK.
The US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a travel advisory telling US citizens not to travel to the UK because of the current case count of Covid-19.
“Because of the current situation in the United Kingdom, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants,” the CDC website states.
So, will this make travel to the US and Europe easier, too?
Currently, there are strict limits on travel to the US from the UK – it’s not possible for most British nationals to enter if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days.
Meanwhile, entry requirements for UK citizens vary from country to country in Europe. Regardless of a country’s traffic light status from the UK government, it’s worth doing your homework before booking a holiday as the traffic light system is not reciprocal. There may be extra tests and quarantine times to factor in when you arrive, which could increase the cost of your trip.
Grant Shapps said on Wednesday that he expected that rules for Brits travelling to the US to become more relaxed “in time”. Asked whether he was confident the US and Europe would reciprocate on the government’s change in rules, he said: “It will depend. We can only set the rules at our end, and that has always been the case. People should always check the rules on the other side.
“I’ve just spoken to my US counterpart today and in the US they still have an executive order which prevents travel from the UK, from Europe, from several other countries to the US. So we’re saying, ‘You can come here, you can come visit, you can come see friends, you can come as a tourist if you’ve been double vaccinated and follow the rules without quarantine’.
“We can’t change that on the other side, but we do expect that in time they will release that executive order, which was actually signed by the previous president, and bans inward travel.”
Are these latest travel changes safe to make?
Grant Shapps said the government would “continue to be guided by the latest scientific data” on its travel guidelines. However, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the opposition had “real concerns” about the change in policy, especially given the rise in Delta variant cases in the US.
“There doesn’t seem to be a system in place yet for an international vaccine passport which the Government said that they were going to bring forward,” she said while on a visit to Hull.
“Each individual US state does things differently. They don’t have a National Health Service that has a vaccine programme like we do with the certifications. So we’re really concerned about making sure that new variants do not come into the UK and that we do have a system that identifies where we have variants of Covid where infection is and we’re able to isolate it.”
Rayner added: “We cannot stress enough that new variants pose a risk and therefore we’ve got to make sure our borders are safe and that we open up international travel in a safe and secure way.”